Hypothermia – Recognising the Warning Signs and Avoiding Exposure
Most of us feel the cold during winter in the UK; the biting winds, hailing rain and morning frosts are just part of the daily scenery, October to March.
However, did you know that older adults lose body heat faster than younger adults? Some of the changes that occur when aging can mask the feeling of getting colder, therefore leaving older adults at risk of hypothermia. Being extremely cold can rapidly turn into a more serious problem and could ultimately lead to hospitalisation.
What Is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is what happens when your body temperature gets very low. For an older adult, allowing your body temperature to fall to or below 35 degrees can cause many health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.
Not protecting yourself adequately both inside and outside of the home can lead to hypothermia. Below we have some crucial tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones from this silent killer:
Keep Warm Inside
- Set your heating to at least 18c – once you start developing hypothermia, you may not notice that your house is too cold, and if you live alone, you may not have anyone to inform you of this. Keeping your heating set at this level avoids your home from becoming too cold.
- Keep your doors closed and use draught excluders where possible.
- Make sure your house isn't losing heat through windows by keeping curtains closed. If you have gaps around the windows, try using weather stripping or caulk to keep the cold air out. This can easily be done by a friend or family member, or even a charity such as ageUK.
- Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house. Insulated hats, scarves, fleece gilets and fleece blankets are essential items to keep at home.
- Thermal mugs are perfect for keeping hot drinks warm for longer, also a bonus for thawing out cold hands!
- Ask family or friends to check on you during cold weather. If a power outage leaves you without heat, try to stay with a relative or friend.
What Are the Warning Signs of Hypothermia?
One of the reasons that hypothermia is so sneaky is that it can be very difficult to spot the signs, especially if you live alone. Are the rooms cold? Is the person dressed appropriately for the cold weather? Is the person slurring their words and having trouble keeping their balance? It is worth talking to your family and friends about the warning signs of hypothermia so that they can check in on you regularly.
Early signs of hypothermia:
- Cold feet and hands
- Puffy or swollen face
- Pale skin
- Shivering (in some cases the person with hypothermia does not shiver)
- Slower than normal speech or slurring words
- Acting sleepy
- Being angry or confused
Later signs of hypothermia:
- Moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
- Stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
- Slow heartbeat
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Blacking out or losing consciousness
For more information please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hypothermia